With a month until Valentine’s Day, you may be racking your brains for the perfect present for your other half. A holiday is a great idea as not only will it impress your loved one and earn you serious brownie points, it will also give you and your partner some valuable time together.
Here we explain how to book a Valentine’s trip without breaking the bank…
Paris and Venice may scream romance but, as the cities will be many travellers’ safe bet, prices tend to rocket and hotels and restaurants will be difficult to book. So, think differently. Alternative city break destinations include Cologne – famous for its cathedral and kolsch beer but not so famous for its railway bridge across the Rhine where couples attach padlocks to the railings with messages of love engraved on them; Amsterdam – where lovers can walk hand in hand next to the canal or take a canal cruise; and Marrakech - where couples can be pampered in a hammam or soak up the sunshine (temperatures can reach 20C in February).
Alternatively, why not stay in the UK? Romantic cities include York, Edinburgh and London, and don’t forget to look at cottage breaks in the countryside too.
Time it right
This year, Valentine’s Day falls during UK school’s February half term so prices over this week will already be high. Why not book a break for a few weeks later, enjoy not fighting to book a table and spend the money you have saved on a meal for two? Valentine’s Day also falls mid-week this year (on a Tuesday) so there is less pressure to travel on the date itself. Pick a weekend after the event and have your own celebration.
Look out for events in your chosen destination before you book as they may push up prices. For example, the Cologne Carnival is on from February 16-22, so if you are planning a trip there and don’t fancy partying, look at another week.
Another way to reduce the cost of a trip is to travel at anti-social times or on weekdays to get the best deals on flights. However, make sure that this doesn’t work out to be a false economy – for example, if you save £50 on a flight that arrives at midnight then have to pay £40 for a taxi as the free shuttle bus has stopped running, it may be worth paying a bit more to prevent your romantic trip becoming a stressful one.
Make sure that you have found the best deal
When you have decided where you want to travel to and when, use a price-comparison site such as TravelSupermarket to compare the price of holidays side by side to make sure you have the best deal for you. Don’t forget to compare the price of package holidays with booking flights and a hotel separately too as there can be a big difference.
Let deals inspire you
Many sites have discount codes and offers on to tempt and inspire you, so use these to save time and money. MoneySupermarket’s voucher channel, for example, currently has a code to save you 10% off the price of hotels through ebookers and £100 off holiday and city break bookings with Jet2 Holidays. There’s also a deal on a trip to the Venice Festival from £308 per person travelling on February 18.
MoneySupermarket Local Deals also features holidays. At the moment, for example, there is an offer for a two-night stay in a four-star hotel on the outskirts of the Lake District National Park for £149.
Or, if you would like to add some luxury to a staycation, how about a spa or beauty treatment? The voucher channel currently has a code to get 20% off body and pamper treatments with the Activity Superstore, and 10% off orders with Red Letter Days.
How to give the gift of travel
You’ve spent a lot of time researching and planning your Valentine’s break, so make sure that you present it well. Options include finding a card with a picture of your chosen destination on and putting the tickets inside; setting the scene by cooking a meal from your country of choice and giving your present over a romantic dinner for two; and buying a token gift that symbolises your destination and wrapping it with the tickets inside.
And, finally, don’t forget that 2012 is a leap year, so February 29 would be the perfect time for ladies to take their loved one away...
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.